NAB Pitches Kid-Friendliness of Politics, High School Sports

Seeks more programming flexibility in changed marketplace
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High school sports and political candidate forums are among the programs the National Association of Broadcasters want to be able to preempt children's programming for without the FCC requiring them to reschedule that kids programming.

NAB General Counsel Rick Kaplan made that pitch last week to a staffer for commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who is championing the FCC's review of its children's television rules.

NAB has a bunch of deregulatory asks, including that the FCC no longer require three hours per week of educational and informational programming on all full-time broadcast channels, multicast channels included. NAB instead says the FCC should give broadcasters an annual 156-hour requirement and allow them the flexibility to schedule it across the year, and spread out over primary and multicast channels.

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NAB has been arguing that the marketplace has changed dramatically for children's programming, that there is much more over-the-air educational/informational (E/I) programming on today than there was when the FCC's Children's Television Act rules were implemented over two decades ago, not to mention, though NAB did, that kids now get most of their programming from someone other than a broadcaster.

"The Commission must weigh the relative costs to broadcasters of providing this programming across all full-time streams against the relative benefits of airing and reporting on that programming for a rapidly shrinking young audience that predominantly accesses video content via nonbroadcast options."

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Kaplan pointed out that the FCC has said its regulations generally are meant to “solve real problems at a reasonable cost," and that in today's marketplace, "the benefit to children of providing three hours of E/I programming on all full-time program streams does not outweigh the costs and burdens."

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NAB would appear to be preaching to the choir. O'Rielly has signaled he agrees broadcasters need more flexibility and fewer restrictions in that marketplace of burgeoning choice.

Currently the E/I requirement is for long-form, regularly scheduled programming. NAB wants the FCC to also factor in short-form and non-regularly scheduled shows and to allow stations to preempt kids programming (without having to reschedule it) for those football games and debates, breaking news and issues programming and parades. The argument is that such programming is of interest to children, too, and should not be discouraged by overly restrictive rules.